The family of Stephon Clark is holding his funeral today in Sacramento, California, as massive protests continue against the police shooting that killed the unarmed African-American man in his grandmother’s backyard on March 18. Police first claimed he was holding a gun, but later admitted they found only his cellphone near his body. We get an update from Berry Accius, with Voice of the Youth in Sacramento.
AMY GOODMAN: “These Stars Collide” by Mourning [A] BLKstar, performing here in our Democracy Now! studio. This is Democracy Now! I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to Sacramento, California, where protests continue over the fatal police shooting of 22-year-old Stephon Clark, an African-American father of two, gunned down in his grandmother’s backyard. At the time of the killing, officers were investigating a 911 call reporting someone in a hoodie in the neighborhood breaking the windows of cars. One video, taken from a police helicopter, shows thermal images of Clark being pursued outside his home by two officers, who draw their pistols on him.
OFFICER 1: All I can tell you is he’s got a hoodie on. He’s running toward the front yard at 29th Street, 29th Street. He’s looking into another car that’s in between the fence and the front yard.”
AMY GOODMAN: Another disturbing video from a body camera worn by one of the officers shows the moment Clark is killed in a hail of 20 police bullets.
OFFICER 2: Show me your hands! Gun! Gun! Gun! [gunshots] 5-7, shots fired. Suspect down!
AMY GOODMAN: Sacramento’s police department says officers waited for about five minutes before approaching Clark to administer medical attention after he was shot. The officers initially claimed they opened fire after Clark advanced toward them holding an object they believed was a gun. In a separate statement, the department later said the officers believed at the time Clark was holding a toolbar. Clark was found to have only a cellphone on him at the time of his death.
On Tuesday, hundreds of protesters disrupted the Sacramento City Council meeting. They were led by Stephon Clark’s brother, Stevonte Clark, who rushed into the council chamber and jumped onto the desk of Mayor Darrell Steinberg.
STEVONTE CLARK: Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark! Stephon Clark!
AMY GOODMAN: Protests over the police shooting of Stephon Clark also took place in New York City’s Times Square Wednesday, where 11 people were arrested and charged with disorderly conduct, harassment, loitering and traffic violations. Clark’s funeral will be held today in Sacramento, with the Reverend Al Sharpton listed as one of the scheduled speakers.
For more, we go to Sacramento, where we’re joined by Berry Accius, founder of the Voice of the Youth and a community activist in Sacramento.
Berry, thanks so much for being with us. Talk about the latest news and what you understand took place, not to mention, after the killing, after the police opened fire on Stephon, why they then turned off the audio of their video cameras.
BERRY ACCIUS: Well, first of all, good morning.
Well, this is just a blatant show of excessive force that we’re usually seeing here in Sacramento, throughout our nation, of the Sacramento PD taking the power into their own hands and not giving this young man due process. And the fact that when you see him muting the body camera, all you think in our mind is “Here comes the cover-up,” because this young man should not have been assassinated, executed, in the back of his grandma’s home.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain what happened on March 18th, on Sunday?
BERRY ACCIUS: Well, from the video, it seems like a young man was going home, and these police officers were just on a hunt. The unfortunate thing about this area, Meadowview, that Stephon Clark was living in, is that this area is definitely overly policed. It’s an oppressive area where there’s lack of resources, a lack of opportunities. So, when you have police officers that feel they can do whatever they want to coming into a community, it’s almost like black males and black females are target practice.
So, what happened to this young man is something that, in 2014, me and other community leaders said, “Sacramento, we have a big problem with policing here. Sacramento, we need help.” When we saw the uprising in Ferguson, in 2014, I remember talking to my councilmembers, saying that we are one national moment away from being Ferguson. And here we are at this moment. So, we have been pushing for change. We have been pushing for more transparency. We have been pushing for more accountability. And we’re asking for justice now for this young man that was executed.
AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to Stephon Clark’s longtime partner Salena Manni, speaking to ABC10. She says she’s struggling to keep her heartbroken children—help them process the death of their father.
SALENA MANNI: And I have to wake up every morning to my kids asking me, “Where’s Daddy? Let’s go get Daddy.” I just tell them, “Daddy is always going to be with us. Daddy is in our hearts always and forever. He’s always going to be with us. Don’t forget that.” And even today, like my son doesn’t understand like hearts and tummies and stuff like that, so he goes, “Daddy is with me. He’s in my tummy.” Like, “Yeah, Daddy is with you, right, baby. He’s always going to be with you.”
AMY GOODMAN: That is Stephon Clark’s longtime partner Salena Manni. Berry, can you explain what action the authorities are taking? First of all, Sacramento has its first of African-American police chief. Is that right?
BERRY ACCIUS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And the California attorney general has said he will investigate?
BERRY ACCIUS: Yes. I mean, that’s all water under the bridge. The unfortunate thing about it, as they put in Chief Hahn, we all knew that there was going to be a challenging moment. And here we are at the moment of truth. The understanding for us, to say that you just have a black face and that we’re supposed to be OK with that, that’s just not enough. What we’re asking and what we’re actually demanding is that we now start looking at this police bill of rights. This police bill of rights is allowing police officers to basically skate when they do things like that. So, it’s not about having a police chief that has a black face. It’s about real systematic change.
And what we are demanding, what we are saying, that the people want change. And that change has to come, when we look into the state level of what this police bill of rights—how does it continually protect police officers for moments like this? So, the frustration of the community has always been bigger than just the actual shootings of the police officers that they do on our streets. It’s bigger than them. They’re the actual pawns. It’s about: How are we going to make true policy change?
Right now, Sacramento is at a moment that we could lead the nation, in a progressive move, to look at our police bill of rights, check out how police are conducting themselves, actually give mandatory drug testing for lethal and nonlethal incidents when they occur, because I believe that if we find out the police state of mind, it will better let us know what and why the police do things like this. This has not been a problem that just happened yesterday. This has been historical.
AMY GOODMAN: Berry—
BERRY ACCIUS: Black people have been targeted throughout the nation.
AMY GOODMAN: Berry, explain what happened at the city council meeting.
BERRY ACCIUS: Emotion, rage, people being tired of being tired. I mean, we have been in the City Hall, you have to understand, since 2014. This is nothing new. And we’ve been asking for true, true reform. If anything, we’re asking for dismantling the system and having us, the people, be a part of recreating it. So, what happened was emotions of a situation that I believe could have been prevented—no, I know could have been prevented, as we have asked and we have worked with our police department, as well as our city council folks, and we haven’t got enough. So right now we’re at this moment where we’re saying, “What do you want to do, Sacramento?” We’re here to save Sacramento. And what are our city officials ready to do to help us save Sacramento?
AMY GOODMAN: Berry Accius, I want to thank you for being with us and ask you to stay for our web exclusive, Part 2, of this discussion about what happened in Sacramento, the killing of Stephon Clark. Berry is founder of Voice of the Youth and Sacramento community activist.